Monkeys take over Saudi highway
Photo used for illustrative purposes (United States Fish and Wildlife Service/Gary M. Stolz)
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They dawdle in the middle of the road, providing entertainment to passersby, particularly children. They are happy to grab whatever is given to them to eat, especially bananas. Yet road users are now concerned by their growing numbers, which can be a hazard on the fast-moving expressway traffic.
Yes, we are talking about the monkeys in Al-Fari on the Jeddah-Makkah Expressway, which often bring traffic to a halt as motorists stop to watch the monkeys frolicking in the middle of the road.
Most motorists offer the monkeys food. What was a delightful sight earlier, particularly for children, now threatens to become a menace with the increase in their numbers.
Arab News paid a visit to the area and found that there were indeed large groups of monkeys in Al-Fari, both in the middle of the road and on either sides of the Expressway. People stop by to feed them and there are signs along Al-Hijrah Road warning motorists of monkey presence in the area.
“The mild weather, coupled with a mountainous terrain, offer the monkeys a perfect sanctuary,” said a motorist, who was also quick to add that they had recently increased in such significant numbers that several people complained to authorities about the potential threat and hazard they pose to travelers.
Ahmad Hamdi said: “Their numbers have gone up only recently, and they are around at all hours of the day, particularly in the afternoons. They do pose hazards for people on the road. What’s more serious is that the monkeys wander freely right in the middle of the road, which might cause accidents, especially since cars move at high speed.”
Pointing out that warning signs alone were not enough, he said: “Where is the Ministry of Agriculture, the Wildlife Commission or other such agencies? Travelers should feel safe on the road, shouldn’t they?”
Muhammad Aslam, who works at a gas station, said there were less monkeys in the past but they have increased over the past few days. “They appear on the road in the early evening looking for food. For them, it’s the best way to get their hands on food, because they are used to approaching people on the road,” he said.
Abdul Rahman Zafar said: “When I go to Jeddah, I buy bananas for the monkeys. When I see them, I give them the bananas from a distance. I do not want them to jump at me. I close my window after throwing the bananas at them because they start fighting to get what they can. My children, however, enjoy the sight very much.”